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How YOUR vote is cast for the conference arrangements committee

Clark & Willsman for CAC v2Labour’s constituency branches are increasingly wondering what the point of sending delegates is at all – last year, a whole quarter of constituency branches (CLPs) voted with their feet, and didn’t turn up at all. That’s a quarter of CLPs disenfranchised from numerous votes – but proper participation in conference requires mandating of conference delegates by local members as well as just turning up. What this means is that decisions on how delegates vote should, where possible, be taken by the wider membership rather than delegates themselves.

Labour defends its various befuddling policy processes on grounds of ‘engagement’ – but all too often, individual members make submissions to these processes which are simply ignored, as with most ‘consultation’ in public life. And the volumnity of such submissions hardly helps.

Conference, on the other hand, at least has a clear process for the submission and ‘compositing’ of motions. If such motions are being debated at local party branches before coming to conference, then conference isn’t exclusive at all in the number of party activists who can participate in its decisions.

Delegates are, after all, exactly that – they are selected to represent their local parties and vote on their behalves. And there’s no reason why this shouldn’t start with the very election that could secure party members a conference that shows members some respect and lets them get their motions on the table: the election of the party’s conference arrangements committee.

At this year’s annual conference, two places on the CAC are up for election. Only constituency party delegates – and not affiliates – can vote this time round. Constituency delegates can choose two candidates on the same ballot paper.

Constituencies are allowed one vote for every party member on their books, cast in a single block by their conference delegation. So theirs no excuse for the decision to be left to the delegates – each member has a vote in this election, and each member should have a say in how it is cast.* Although nominations have closed for the committee, and 100-200 constituencies have made nominations who their delegates will go on to vote for, your local party can still mandate its delegates to vote for particular candidates.

All you need to do is propose this at your local party meeting in September. In some constituencies, you will have to make a nomination at branch level, for it then to be voted on by the general committee (GC). Other constituencies will allow it to be brought straight to a GC or all-member meeting.

Luckily for members, the choice this time round couldn’t be clearer. The Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance are supporting Pete Willsman, who has an unrivalled record of standing up for grassroots members on all four of the party’s internal committees over 30 years, and Katy Clark, the dynamic MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, whose record on standing up for Labour values and against the biggest mistakes of the Blair years could not be stronger.

On the other hand, Progress are supporting two parliamentary whips in the election – Tom Blenkinsop and Heidi Alexander. Their day job is to hand out discipline to MPs who fail to toe the leader’s line. How sympathetic will they be to party activists and conference delegates who want the party to take a tougher line on austerity, or even just to have an open debate?


*Many grassroots activists and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy have called for this election to be conducted by a One Member, One Vote postal ballot. In a bitterly ironic twist, the Conference Arrangements Committee have ruled out the rule change submitted on this topic, pending appeal.

One Comment

  1. Peter Willsman says:

    All unions and many CLPs mandate their delegates.This is a longstanding and totally legitimate practice.The Rule Book is silent on the matter.In recent years some Party officials have abused their position and falsely told delegates that mandating is forbidden and so can be ignored in favour of voting in line with the recs.suggested by the said official! Any such abuse should be reported to the Gen.Sec.The abuser should also be asked to show the (non existent!)rule forbidding mandating.

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